The Return of the King  - J.R.R. Tolkien Now at last, my dear readers, I have come to the end. And, when I say the end, I do not mean a final reading. *Smiles* Nor the end of Middle-Earth for any that love it. No, I read through the entire story, as I have done three other times in full. But this time, I even took the time to again, only my second time mind you (for I was younger before, and not as patient or understanding then), to read through every word in the Appendices and Indexes. Some may think this silly, and I think to some extent you're right. I had at first thought I would not read the Appendices, because I had read them before and thought them long and full of much information, and they are. But I tell you now...someone who reads Lord of the Rings and does not read at least the first two or three Appendices will never know what happened to the characters that you loved in this tale when the story itself came to a close. For only in the Appendices are those things mentioned, along with wonderful stories of the past that shape for you an even grander appearance the world of Middle-Earth, the origin of these people you love, and how everything came to the time that we ourselves entered this world and fell in love with it.

But to that, shame on me! *Laughs* I am starting from the end! Let me begin again.

The Return of the King is as beautiful and glorious, and fulfilling a tale as you could ever wish to read at the "end" of a story. It feels swiftly paced, and now even the happenings with our other half of the Fellowship in Mordor do not feel slow and tedious like they did in the second book. Not to mention, the Fifth "Book" (first half of Return of the King) takes up that concept of one half of the Fellowship being here and the other half there, but places it in far faster a pace. The half not in Mordor split and so we get the constant flux between the lands of Gondor and Rohan, loving the latter and its kind, valiant people, and then find ourselves standing in mirthless awe of the seemingly too-high formality but wonder of the former. We follow closely the two leaders of the land, and while both have tragic things unfolding simultaneously, amidst both we also have beauty unlooked-for springing up as what some today would perhaps call miracles. I think rather that it was the choices of those amazing characters that brought them there, through great Fear and Despair, and brought the people we love just over the brink into some feebly claimed Hope.

The War of the Ring as this is called, is incredible to watch. But this book, just like in the others, has so -much- to say about its characters. They are, unlike any others, the shining stars in this story. Whether grim and majestic as they come into their own like Aragorn, or fierce and passionate like Eomer to the last; cold and kingly and unshakeable like the Lady Eowyn, or tender and soft, like the Men of ages long lost like Faramir...the characters, especially for the first time the race of Men in this book, truly comes forth and brings upon themselves the responsibility of saving, or trying to do whatever they can, even hopelessly, to save Middle-Earth. Not to say they have not done so before, mind you. But only that here, here! We see it in its full power and glory! Every action, both the selfless and the internally driven are beautiful and magnificent to behold. Some sway us with their kindness and love to tears in the end, like Theoden; and then some like Denethor bring us to terrible pain because of his cruelty and unfeeling attitude, and eventually his poisoned, vicious, too-proud mind. It is an intricate battle between every person we were first introduced to, soon came to love, and now we find them out in the open, and each in their own way is revealed to us for who and what they truly are. They alone can rend my heartstrings or tie them in knots! A single line! An action decided and refused to be backed down from! A denial or acceptance! They make this book, the final of its trilogy, Great.

I also cannot go forward, for my heart will not let me go on without saying this: I thanked Tolkien out loud and in my heart almost every five or so pages while I read the Appendices. Some of you may be tempted to skip them, thinking they are not worth it since the main story is over, and I'm sure a great many readers will do so. *Gazes at you with a faint, knowing smile* ...but you're missing the best of parts when you do so. Because the story may end, but the characters' lives continued. *Nods her head towards the Appendices* They have history in them, that history that you first felt when you stepped into Middle-Earth and began to realize that it was a whole world, without gaps or places to be filled. That world is in those Appendices, even shortened as it is to a hundred or so pages. But it is rich, and filling. Whenever I used to read the Lord of the Rings before, I would often get this sensation inside of me: an unquenchable longing to put away the third and last book hurriedly and grab the first and begin it all over again, because I could not get enough of it. I still felt incomplete, like there was sooo...much...more! And I did not have it!

I mentioned at the beginning that this was my second time reading the Appendices in full, but I was younger before, and did not register a lot of the things that I read or their significance, and over the years, I forgot what I had read until it passed out of all knowledge completely. Reading them again now, on my fourth read-through finally, was like having read them for the first time. It is filled with tales and names that I did not know, with things that had been mentioned but that I did not understand. And even now, having read them all, I -don't- understand everything...but I understand far, far more than I could ever have known reading these Appendices could have given me. I see now the way that Middle-Earth began to be peopled, how Darkness entered it and led to this War of the Ring, how the people I loved acted on every single day--for that -is- written out in one of the Appendices, what every character was doing on that particular day, even if they were split up!--and then last mentioned but not last read, and most dear to every character lived out the rest of their lives afterwards.

There are many other things there: Languages, the Races, the History of Numenor and the Eldar in short, the different types of Men and the constant reminder that all this falls back into Shire Reckoning and Shire-relatedness. *Smiles* But it is so worth it.

I am perhaps not saying a lot of things that can be said. What about the story? What about the ending? What happens? What can we expect? And I will tell you only this: You have come with me so far in Middle-Earth, fellow readers. You should know better than me that words cannot express. No matter how -hard- I try...! Words cannot express. Read this book. It is final and magnificent, and some say the very best of all three books. *Laughs* I would have to agree with them! Because I love it. Love it everlastingly. And yet I cannot put one book over another, because to me, they are all the same story. *Smiles warmly* go finish the story. If by now you are not convinced it is worth your time, then I will not waste words trying to convince you. It is best...when experienced.

May you love them as I do and more!

For those of you who have seen the movies...
Now we come at last to the final comparison, and there are things that have occasioned in both my other reviews that still stand. Some things I agree with (Minas Tirith was beautiful for instance), and others I have a tendency to slightly feel disappointed by (Eowyn and Faramir were lovely, but were far too underplayed and "quaint" to represent the amazing characters they are; Eowyn more in this book than the last). The music thrills me, especially the small change they made where Pippin sings for Denethor. That mesh of scenes where Faramir rides out, and the entire conglomeration of conversations as is read in the book is... *Shudders and clenches her hand over her heart* ...beautiful and painful beyond comparison except to that part in the first movie, right after the Mines of Moria when you see that look that Frodo gives you when he turns back and gazes at you. The music is wonderful, and ever in my heart I hear the song of Aragorn as he stands high above Minas Tirith before its people and sings in Elvish. There are so many wonderful things to say about the movie! And well, let me address at least the one that brought about the most surprise and a little bit of fuss for those of us that read the books first.

The Shire, after they return. I too shared the same thoughts when they came back and all was as it had been when they left. And yet! Remember what I said in a previous review: Movies are not books, and they -cannot- be like books, or else they fail in their purpose. Many parts had to be left out, and for that I am sorry, but understanding. The Shire was whole because one couldn't make such long movies already longer. It would not be a smart move on their part. And for mine, though the wrong or right is for you to decide, I am at peace with what they did at the end of the movie. It may not have been by-the-book, but it made -sense- for the movie to end in that way, for does not the book reflect that too, even if there was some more struggle they had to go through first? *Smiles warmly*

My final thoughts on the movies will have to be this: I would recommend that everyone read the books first, then watch the movies, and the books again. Perhaps not all immediately squished together! Heaven knows that can be difficult in itself once! But I feel that the movies were far from reaching the magnificence of the books if they were to stand on their own. When you read the books and then see the movies, you begin to see and appreciate so -much- more all the efforts these crews and actors went through to -truly- create something masterful and worthy of the title "The Lord of the Rings." From the music, to the craftsmanship of the armor and weapons, to the settings and directing, it was all greatly done! And I still hold this trilogy of movies to be the best Book-to-Movie take I've seen in a LONG time, if ever!

But now let me make my second point. I said that you should read the books -again- after watching the movies (after reading the books the first time, if you haven't already reversed it. <3). My reason for saying this is because this was my first time reading the books after having seen the movies (quite a number of times in fact, along with the makings-of), and when you've seen the movies, it truly brings to light some things that you may have felt before, but that were captured so <i>clear and sharp in the movies. Those two scenes I mentioned before, in the first and third movies, one right out of Moria where you see the look on Frodo's face, and the other when you hear Denethor telling his son to go out and defend Osgiliath. ...those scenes are forever ingrained in my mind, seared there like brands on my memories, and reading the books again, those emotions that were first there and which the movies stirred...become like torrents of emotions that make everything you read all the -more- profound and beautiful. I vividly remember watching the movies and noting all the things that they changed and didn't include and so on. I now had the pleasure of reading the books after watching the movies with that knowledge, and putting the movies against the books, putting the images in my mind against what I saw on screen, and realizing how some things were similar, and some fell far, far from the mark. And yet it creates a bond between both movie and book, and altogether works to fill up the heart with the beauty and love of all types for this series.

*Smiles*, watch, read again. The Appendices too. This worth every shred of imagination you have and love. It will send you soaring, and fill you like nearly no other book can. I hope to see you in Middle-Earth someday. Until then...!

"The Road goes ever on and on~"